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Helping others overcome the fear of diabetes

Claire Vine became a diabetes nurse to support others, as she herself was supported.

She runs the Type 1 'Sweet' course for the North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT), which she says changed her own life.

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Claire was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 5. She knew early on that she wanted to be a nurse.

My name is Claire Vine and I am a “Type 1 Diabetic” among other things a daughter, wife, mother, friend, colleague, recognised Queen’s nurse and a community diabetes specialist nurse working for NELFT.

 

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 5 following a rather bad case of chicken pox. My GP at the time tested my urine and in her words “off to hospital please, Claire has sugar diabetes”. We are now thankfully aware of all the different types of diabetes and recommended treatments.

 The insulin pen that appeared during my teenage years was revolutionary for the time. I did not miss the finger pricker catapult which unfortunately was my own means of managing my diabetes at that time.

Being so young at diagnosis, my mother, father and extended family took care of me. I had a food menu to pick every morning designed by the dietician and sweets in my diet were non-existent. I was supported by a wonderful team at the local hospital, even during my teenage years, where I was guilty of not adhering to the “ideal” diabetes management. It delighted me recently when I met my paediatric diabetes nurse through a work meeting and she is still going strong after all these years.

Diabetes was rare at that time and it had a psychological effect. I didn’t want to attend school out of fear. With much support I conquered my fear and went on to college and finally university. From a young age I wanted to become a nurse and I joined NELFT as a newly qualified community nurse around ten years ago.

I decided to become a diabetes nurse because I wanted other people with diabetes not to fear the condition and be able to feel supported in managing it no matter what life throws at you. I completed the SWEET (South West Essex and Training for diabetes) course when I first joined the service. Out of all the conferences and educational courses I have attended, this one changed my life the most.

Positives

Ok, with Type 1 diabetes you can only have up to a 3 year driving license, you cannot join the armed forces but there is still so much you can do. Diabetes rarely affects my daily living apart from hypos - these can be a pain when you are having a stressful or busy day. Thankfully I feel in control and have all my hypo treatments nearby. I used to keep my diabetes a secret especially as a teenager, but as I have grown up and felt more confident, it has become something positive to talk about and I would encourage others to do so.

I used to be the secretary for the Thurrock diabetes group, although they have sadly closed now there are still other local groups in Basildon and Brentwood who I would highly recommend. It gives me the most unbelievable pleasure to run the SWEET Type 1 course and pump clinic (there's also one for people with Type 2)  especially to see that difference in the attitudes, mental state and general wellbeing of the patients after completing it. We now have amazing technologies in the community such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring. I chose to have my diabetes care here where I work, some may say I am biased but they are the most knowledgeable, kind and caring people I know.

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